Ambient Advertising: An Overview

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An Introduction Ambient advertising refers to advertising through any non-traditional media. The term ‘ambient advertising’ was coined during the early nineties when clients began demanding ‘something a bit different’ in their advertising. It could appear as messages on the backs of car park receipts, at the bottom of golf holes, on hanging straps in railway carriages, on the handles of supermarket trolleys, or on the sides of egg cartons. It has been gaining the favour of marketers ever since the bombardment of advertisements has made it very expensive to get meaningful results through traditional advertising media.

It exponentially increases the means through which a consumer can be reached as every item that a potential consumer can see, hear, feel, smell or taste is fair game. ?? Advertising has, to some extent, been a victim of its own success. As the ad clutter in any one media increases, each individual campaign suffers diminishing returns. The Evolution of Advertising Advertising has its origins in ancient Greece and Rome where papyrus was used to make sales messages and wall posters.

Advertising has come a long way since then, always growing until the media it grew through could no longer sustain its growth. In fact advertising has been so successful that it has completely altered the revenue models of its chief media of growth. Newspapers, radio, television and the internet largely depend on the advertising revenues they generate. Advertising has, to some extent, been a victim of its own success. As the ad clutter in any one medium increases, each individual campaign suffers diminishing returns. This forces ad men to look at newer, more effective media for their advertisements.

Defining ambient advertising Defining ambient advertising is a tricky affair as what may be considered nontraditional media today may no longer remain so tomorrow. For example, a few years ago advertising through bus wraps was unheard of and the first few such advertisements evoked a lot of interest among the audience. There were news reports about the initiatives taken by the state governments to generate additional revenue which further added to the promotional value of the advertisements. Today, however, very few people would even bat an eyelid if they saw such an advertisement on a bus.

Around an year ago, Airtel entered into an agreement with the Indian Railways and rolled out the ‘Airtel Rajdhani’ which was essentially the Rajdhani express wearing the colours of telecom giant Airtel. This advertising exercise was covered ?? by several news channels, the newspapers and even made it to a few magazines. News reports state that a crowd had gathered to see the first Airtel Rajdhani that rumbled onto the Bangalore railway station. 1 As is evident from the example above, even such a seemingly small change in the advertising medium, from buses to trains, can have huge repercussions on audience reactions.

When advertising through a medium gains wide-spread popularity, it fails to surprise the audience and can no longer be called ambient. Ambient advertising can, therefore, be defined as an attempt to increase brand recognition and recall by surprising the target audience either by advertising in an unusual location or through unusual execution. ?? Ambient advertising can be defined as an attempt to increase brand recognition and recall by surprising the target audience either by advertising in an unusual location or through unusual execution

Benefits of Ambient advertising Because of its very nature, the scope of ambient advertising is so widespread that the avenues for reaching the consumer are practically endless. When a previously unexplored medium of advertising is used, there is no existing market for this medium. Without an existing market the ambient marketer is able to procure rights to advertise through the medium at a significantly lower cost than using a well established medium. As a medium for advertising gains popularity and a market for the medium is established the cost of advertising through the medium rises.

However, as the target audience sees an advertisement in a setting regularly, the advertisement ceases to surprise and can no longer be called ambient. Therefore, ambient advertising by its very definition is one of the most cost-effective advertising solutions. A well executed creative is not completely restricted to the medium through which it is communicated. In today’s networked world, a brilliantly crafted creative in print will be up on the internet in a jiffy, featured in a T. V. show or talked about on the radio making the medium of communication itself insignificant.

What will still matter is the cost of advertising through a particular medium and the flexibility allowed by the medium. Due to the flexibility of ambient media, there is a lot of room for innovation, making it easier to produce a creative with a lasting impact. While most traditional media are best suited when the target audience is spread over a large region, ambient advertising can prove to be more effective in a localized setting. As of today, it is difficult to imagine another medium of advertising beyond ambient, as there is little that does not fall under its gamut.

Advertising through any new media that spring up would initially be called ambient advertising. Such media may, with time, evolve into mainstream advertising media but then, they ?? ?? In today’s networked world, a brilliantly crafted creative in print will be up on the internet in a jiffy, featured in a T. V. show or talked about on the radio making the medium of communication itself insignificant. ?? would no longer be ambient. ?? The down-side The problem of accountability Ambient advertisement has long been the preferred medium for small business with tiny advertising budgets.

Advertising through such means throws up the question of the accountability of a firm choosing it as their medium of advertising. When a consumer makes a purchasing decision for a high involvement product, advertisements on traditional media help ratify her decision. As of today no large firm can rely solely on ambient advertising to reach the consumer. The Problem of ‘clutter’ Advertising through ambient media throws up the question of the accountability of a firm choosing it as their medium of advertising ??

One aspect where ambient advertising has been receiving a lot of flak is in the amount of advertising clutter it can potentially add. With the whole world as their canvas, marketers can use every item that a consumer is exposed to as an advertising medium. Ad fatigue is an oft talked about phenomenon that is now increasingly visible. With the average American being exposed to over 3000 ad messages a day, most of them have become merely part of the backdrop. 2 Ambient advertising is not as easy to ignore as the traditional advertisements.

The television allows you to flip channels, the pages on a newspaper only have to be turned, but what do you do when the entire train you’re travelling by is painted in the colours of a telecom operator? In a letter to the top ten advertising agencies in the United States, the director of Commercial Art, Gary Ruskin asks “The advertising industry used to recognize boundaries beyond which it would not go. It did not try to lay claim to every waking moment and every inch of space. Are those days long gone?

Do you recognize any place to be off-limits to advertising? In your view, where should your industry draw the line? What should be off-limits to ads? ” 3 The letter clearly highlights the resentment among some quarters towards the encroachment of all free space by advertisers. In fact, the city of Sao Paolo in Brazil went to the extent of banning all Out-ofhome advertising in the year 2007. The law was approved by a vote of 45 to 1 in the September of 2006. 4 This, however, did not reduce the total advertising spending in the city.

Marketers found new and innovative ways to reach out to their target audience. Print, television and ambient media witnessed a surge in spending. The law has now been relaxed to some extent permitting billboards in ?? The television allows you to flip channels, the pages on a newspaper only have to be turned, but what do you do when the entire train you’re travelling by is painted in the colours of a telecom operator? ?? public spaces but with size restrictions. But this is not something entirely new. In the year 1759, Dr.

Samuel Johnson wrote in his magazine, The Idler, that “Advertisements are now so numerous that they are very negligently perused. ” 5 Advertising, itself, was not even a formally acknowledged industry when Dr. Johnson’s article was published. As soon as the advertising industry was born, the newspapers warned of “ad saturation”. Centuries later we still keep talking about ad clutter around us. What this indicates is that there will always be factions of society against the growth of advertising. These factions may feel differently if they understood the implications of an advertisement-free society.

Advertisements add billions of dollars of value to society not only by informing potential customers of a product but also by enabling the media through which it is communicated i. e. , television and radio broadcasting, newspaper distribution and the internet. Ambient advertising, itself, creates a market where none existed. It promotes sales and stimulates the economy. When the cost outweighs the benefits of ambient advertising we will see the markets adjust themselves by the reduction of the amount of advertising in public spaces. ??

As soon as the advertising industry was born, the newspapers warned of “ad saturation”. Centuries later we still keep talking about ad clutter around us ?? Going Forward The dynamic nature of ambient media implies that as one form of media goes mainstream it will no longer be called ambient. Marketers will switch to other media through which they can surprise the audience, creating a new breed of ambient media. Going forward, we can expect to see the media of advertising that is called ambient to change dramatically, but ambient advertising will always remain a lucrative, cost-effective method of eaching out to a target audience. With the passing of time, the medium must be split into other divisions for easier classification. When the first advertisements appeared on the internet, it would have also been classified as ambient advertising. As advertisement through the internet grew, it emerged as a mainstream medium in itself. Similarly we can expect to see grocery media (stickers on bananas, sides of egg cartons, etc. ), ticket media (back of bus and train tickets) emerging as the new mainstream media. Ambient advertising will then adapt to include other radical forms of advertising. ? The dynamic nature of ambient media implies that as one form of media goes mainstream it will no longer be called ambient ?? Bibliography 1. ‘Airtel Rajdhani Express’ rolls out of Bangalore. The Hindu. April 11, 2008. 2. Goodman, Ellen. Ads pollute most everything in sight. Albuquerque Journal. June 27, 1999, p. C3. 3. Ruskin, Gary. Commercial Alert Queries Ad Agencies. Commercial Art. April 12, 2000. 4. Rohter, Larry. Billboard ban in Sao Paulo angers advertisers. The New York Times. December 12, 2006. 5. The art of advertising exemplified. Johnson, Samuel. 1759, The Idler , p. # 4o.